The artist Rafael Pérez Evans, who gained notoriety for dumping 240,000 carrots (plus some potatoes) outside of Goldsmiths College, his alma mater, has just opened his first museum show—and while there’s nary a root vegetable in sight, there are several grain silos and a lake of milk.
Greeting visitors at the entrance of the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds are two full-size grain silos, sourced from a manufacturer in Northern Ireland. The installation, titled Mountain, is inspired by the E.U. practice of stockpiling grain—which can send prices plummeting and threaten farmers’ livelihoods.
“Since the 1970s, [there have been] policies of stocking masses of grain, butter, powdered milk—ridiculous amounts of food. They became known as grain mountains,” Evans told Artnet News.
“This idea of food security and food protectionism is something that shakes the whole market. When such large quantities of food are stocked, it devalues food products and farmers get very upset,” he said. “I’ve always been very interested in how these fluctuations from the central government cause deep wounds for small-hold farmers.”
Presented empty in the exhibition, “the silos become almost a metal carcass of excess,” Evans said. “It becomes a monument to that unsustainable, postindustrial way of thinking about food production.” (The silos are expected to go to a farm after the exhibition, but the artist will also entertain acquisition offers if there’s interest.)
A tiny pile of grain displayed inside the galleries, titled Handful, stands in stark opposition to the massive scale of both the silos and Evans’s infamous carrot pile.
“During the lockdown, it has been important for me to become aware of what fits in my mouth and my stomach and my hand,” Evans said, and to work in opposition to this monumental, monstrous scale that is the industry of food.”
Evans became an internet sensation with his contribution to Goldsmith’s annual MFA exhibition, which arrived at the school via truck and was unloaded in dramatic fashion: an orange tidal wave of 31 tons of root vegetables dumped on the school courtyard.
The piece, titled Grounding (2020), was intended as a condemnation of global food waste, using vegetables that had been deemed unfit for human consumption. It mimicked the farmer protests of dumping produce that are common in Spain, where Evans grew up on a farm.
“It produced a lot of different conversations, and that’s a good thing,” Evans said. “That’s what protests are for, to open up conversations and dialogues about things that people don’t necessarily want to look into.”
Now, Evans has again borrowed a popular farmers’ protest action by flooding one of the Henry Moore galleries with about an inch of milk for a work titled Lake. (It’s heavily cut with water and laced with preservatives to keep it from turning sour during the show.)
“The farmers dump milk in roads in city centers, and it it becomes a temporary lake of this white substance,” Evans said. “Small-hold farmers have no voice. So the milk becomes the voice. The dumping becomes the scream. They use produce to disturb the city.”
The effect is somewhat different in a white cube space, where the pooling liquid “is staining the floor, making it white,” Evans added. “It becomes a meditative state.”
The artist plans to bring in farmers from nearby Yorkshire for programming related to the exhibition, allowing them to speak directly to the issues that have inspired his work. “What can we learn from soil workers, from voices outside of the city?” Evans asked.
He hopes to encourage conversations about what food production might look like in the future, such as Spanish writer Jaime Izquierdo Vallina’s notion of an “agripolitan city.”
“It is reimagining a future in which agricultural production is integral to the running of the city,” Evans said. “Having the silos outside the Henry Moore Institute is a bit of a hint toward that imagined future.”
See more photos from the exhibition below.
“Rafael Pérez Evans: Handful” is on view at the Henry Moore Institute, 74 The Headrow, Leeds LS1 3AH, May 18–August 29, 2021.
Follow Artnet News on Facebook:
Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.